17 May

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17 May is Norway’s Constitution Day. We celebrate the signing of the Norwegian constitution on 17 May 1814, during a turbulent period when Napoleon had been defeated and Norway, ruled by Denmark and thus on the losing side, was to be given to Sweden as a reward for the Sweden’s help in winning the war.

Norway tried to avoid this by writing a constitution and choosing the Danish prince Christian Frederik as King of Norway. After brief skirmishes with Sweden, Norway was however forced to accept a union with Sweden, which lasted until 1905.

17 May is celebrated first and foremost with children’s parade. In Oslo, the parade goes up the main street past Parliament and to the Royal Palace, where members of the Royal Family wave to the children from the balcony. (The King and Queen had seats this year, I noticed. They are both in their mid-eighties, the King was discharged from hospital the day before after getting treatment for an infection, and the parade lasts for several hours.)

I don’t know how many kids participated in Oslo this year, but around 25 000 at a guess. Last year was a record, after two pandemic years when the parade was canceled, with as many as 30 000 kids. The streets in the city centre are packed, with people coming to watch the parade, eat out with friends, or just walk around eating ice cream. Most people dress up at least a little, many in traditional dresses, bunad.

For me as a photographer, this is a challenging day. Me, with my manual focus and love of carefully controlled, narrow depth of field shots, to shoot crowds and fast-moving people in a parade? Well, I made an effort with both my mobile and the Leica, and with the sunlight and the colours it couldn’t really go entirely wrong.

If you’re going to Norway in spring, consider being here for 17 May. It’s quite something. But remember to book restaurant tables well in advance on that date!

~ Jenny G.

Most wore traditional dresses even when riding.
The parade proper. Each school’s contingent is headed by flag bearers.
The parade, and some of the crowds. The Royal Palace in the distance.
Outside my son’s school.
Of course there was some bokeh. And lots of ice cream.


  1. Very cool. I hear you about capturing a large crowd; challenging for me as well. You did great with all the details and color!

    • An important topic, the weather on 17 May is a national news item weeks in advance and “Do you remember that time it snowed / rained cats and dogs / was scorching hot on 17 May” a regular conversation starter this time of year. It can actually be too hot, as the bunad containes metres and metres of wool fabrics … But yeah, this year was just perfect πŸ™‚

  2. After the past few year, it’s just so incredibly nice to see crowds and pageantry and people gathering and doing the things they’d always done. Amazing what perspective allows you to appreciate. I enjoyed the history lesson and SO glad you had a glorious day for it!

    • Oooh, isn’t it just. The two pandemic 17 Mays were miserable, they had a children’s parade in Minecraft and then we went to eat ice cream in the freezing rain just because we’re supposed to eat ice cream on 17 May. I do so hope we never end up there again.

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